Change, as the oft-repeated adage goes, is the only constant. The global economic environment is changing rapidly around us, requiring corporations and their leaders to constantly adapt and make course corrections. However, amidst all this there are some things that don’t change: The qualities that make a person successful remain pretty much the same, and this year’s Fortune India list of the Most Powerful Women (MPW) in business bears testimony to that. In a country where women are still up against several socio-economic challenges, the 50 women who make our 2019 MPW list are examples of how determination, drive, creativity, and compassion can make a potent recipe for success. These women have proven themselves to be role models in diverse fields, charting out their own paths and, in the process, shattering the glass ceiling. As they do so, they are bound to inspire millions of other women—who are battling their own surroundings across the length and breadth of the country—to follow their path and realise their dreams. This, in the truest sense, is why we call them “powerful” women—they have the power to make several others take the road less travelled.
Coming to the 2019 MPW list: While 2018 saw significant churn at the top,this year the top 10 has not seen too much change. Legal luminary Zia Mody remains firmly at the top spot, given her undisputed clout in corporate and legal circles, as does Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw, India’s biotech queen, at No. 2.Suneeta Reddy of Apollo Hospitals (No. 3), Alice G. Vaidyan of GIC Re (No.4), and Zarin Daruwala of Standard Chartered Bank, India (No. 5) take up the three other slots in the top 5 this year. Former State Bank of India chairman Arundhati Bhattacharya, who has been a consistent No. 1 since 2014, did not figure in the list last year after her retirement from the bank but makes a strong comeback this year at No. 7 owing to the many hats she now wears, notably as a board member on Reliance Industries Ltd and Wipro. Significantly,quite a few of our listers have been regulars over the years since the first edition of the list in 2011. As many as 15 of this year’s listers have been on it ever since the first year, with 22 having featured in every edition over the past five years. This year, we have seven debutantes, including Nadia Chauhan of ParléAgro, who figures at No. 26 jointly with her sister Schauna.
The list is as diverse as it is interesting, given that it has representation from various sectors, from banking, technology, and law to media, entertainment,hospitality, and manufacturing. Take the case of Nivruti Rai, one of our two cover people. Rai, as the head of semiconductor giant Intel in India, is driving big change as the world moves to being increasingly data-driven. Rai has nowseen Intel India become the largest research and development centre for Intel outside the U.S. Devita Saraf, who returns to the list after a gap, is busy growing her television brand Vu, which is battling it out with global giants Samsung, LG, and Sony, and has emerged a top seller in the online space. Jyotsna Suri,who debuts on the list, has successfully grown her late husband’s hotel chain into a formidable force. The LaLiT hotels are now present across the country, with a property in London as well.
The MPW list of 50 is, however, just a representation of what creativity, passion,and entrepreneurial zeal canachieve. As more women scale new heights in the world of business, I am sure future MPW lists will include new faces who will count as role models in their own right. More power to them.
(The Fortune India September 15 - December 14, 2019 special issue is on stands. Subscribe here).